Baby poop is always a matter of concern for new mothers. The cause of worry can be on various factors such as the frequency of the baby's poop, its color and consistency, and concerns about your child's solid food intake.
Normal Color and Consistency of Baby Poop
A baby’s first poop is always black in color since it is the contents that were in the gut of the baby at birth. Once the mother starts breastfeeding, a transition also starts when the baby's poop color changes from black to dark green. Around the 5th-day post delivery, the baby’s stool color changes to yellow. The consistency of the baby's poop will be liquid with some seedy bits or completely liquid. This consistency will remain until the baby starts consuming anything other than milk.
The baby’s yellow stools mainly consist of fat, which is present in the milk. In the first one and a half months post delivery, babies who are gaining good weight normally pass stools at least 3–4 times a day. There is no need to worry if your baby is passing stools many times in a day since excreting a lot of stools indicate that your baby is consuming a sufficient amount of milk, which is not bad at all. However, if your baby does not frequently pass stools within a day, it is important to get his or her weight checked.
If your baby is less than six weeks old and is passing stools less than 3–4 times a day or if the stools have not changed their color to yellow by the 5th day, then it is better to get a weight check done to ensure if it is just a variation or if there is a matter of concern. It is only after the first six weeks that a few healthy breastfed babies start pooping much less, which can even mean pooping once a week. One can have a weight check of the baby while visiting a pediatrician. A weight gain of 30 g or more each day indicates that the baby is growing well and getting sufficient milk. Regardless of the baby’s age, if the baby is gaining a good weight, then there is no need to worry about the fewer stools that the baby is passing.
Causes of Green Poop in Babies
A healthy breastfed baby’s poop color will be mustard yellow. Babies who are fed using formula have thicker stools compared to those babies who are fed only with breast milk.
The stool gets the color from the bile that is generated from the liver. The color of the baby's poop might vary due to a number of factors. Some of the causes of green color poop in babies include:
- Intake of green leafy vegetables: A mother's diet or the baby's food intake can change the color of the poop. If the diet consists of a lot of green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and other green foods, the color of the breast milk will also change due to the natural and artificial food colors, thereby also changing the color of the baby’s stools.
- Iron supplements: If the baby takes iron drops or supplements as prescribed by the pediatrician, then the baby’s stool color can change to dark green. It is a side effect of the unabsorbed iron by the baby’s body that changes the color of the stools. Moreover, if the breastfeeding mother is on iron supplements, the baby can also have green poops.
- Excessive foremilk: When the baby only drinks foremilk, which is the thin watery milk that the baby gets at the beginning of breastfeeding, the baby’s poop color will be green and frothy. The foremilk has a lower calorie content and is beneficial in quenching the thirst of your baby. It contains more of lactose, which is the natural sugar content present in breast milk. When the baby receives excessive lactose, the poop color changes to green. This is usually the case when the mother has excessive breast milk or when the mother switches the baby to the other breast before the baby receives the hindmilk. When the mother has excessive milk, the baby gets full with the foremilk and stops drinking further. In both scenarios, the baby receives larger quantities of lactose and remains gassy and irritated. For babies to get complete nutrition from the breast milk, it is necessary for the babies to consume the higher fat content of the hindmilk.
- Infections: When babies have a stomach infection, their poop color can also change to green. It is best to take your baby to a pediatrician if you suspect that your baby is having an infection. The doctor will prescribe certain antibiotics for a few days. It may take a few days or weeks for the poop color to change back to yellow. Moreover, ensure that your baby is given breastmilk as this is one of the best ways to recover faster from the infection.
- Diarrhea: This is one of the major causes of green poops in babies. When the poop is watery, thin, and green with a foul smell, it is a sign of loose motions, which is caused by viruses. Check if there is a presence of mucus in the green and watery stool of your child. If there is, then immediately consult the pediatrician since it can be an infection and your child might require treatment.
- Change in formula milk brand: Babies may not appropriately adjust to all brands of formula milk. They can be allergic to a few brands, which is the cause of their green poops. So when a formula milk brand has been changed and if you observe a change of color in your baby's poop, it is best to consult your child's pediatrician to help you look for another brand of formula milk. This is quite common among babies and not really a cause for concern. You should only use the brands that suit your baby.
- Teething: When babies are teething, they tend to drool a lot because of the excessive saliva produced. The overproduction of saliva can irritate the intestinal lining, which in turn results in excreting green poops.
- Change in food patterns or the start of eating solid foods: If there is a change in your baby's food pattern or if you just started giving your baby solid food, it can also cause a green poop.
- Stomach upset: Having frequent stomach flu or an upset stomach can be one of the reasons why your baby passes a green poop.
- Cold: If babies have a cold, their poop can also change its color to green.
- Sensitivity to dairy products: If the lactating mother has added a dairy product to her diet, which the baby is sensitive to, it can cause a green poop. In such situations, the baby tends to be very cranky. It is not the best option to give cow's milk to babies who are less than a year. Some babies can start passing green stools if they are given cow's milk. It is best to stick to breast milk and if that is not possible, then formula milk is the best alternative.
- Sensitivity to antibiotics: At times, certain antibiotics that the lactating mother or baby takes can also cause green stools. It is best to inform the doctor about it so that he or she can prescribe a probiotic.
Setting Worries to Rest
In most cases, parents need not worry about green poops of their babies. However, it is always best to know what is normal, the causes that lead to the change of its color, and some of the myths that are present about green poops. When a breastfeeding baby is healthy and is gaining the required weight according to his or her age, then there is no room for worry and there is no need to be stressed about the number of times your baby poops or the color of your baby's poop. When in doubt, it is better to consult the pediatrician for the right solution.
An occasional passing of green poops in babies is not a matter of concern since it can be due to the various factors as mentioned above. But if you have noticed the following signs and symptoms, then you must seek immediate medical help by visiting your child's pediatrician.
- Frequent green stools: If your baby regularly passes green stools, then it is vital to discuss this matter with the doctor.
- Dehydration: If your baby is constantly passing green stools along with the signs of dehydration, seek immediate medical help as dehydration in babies is a serious condition that needs urgent medical care.
- Blood in stools: If there are red stains or blood in your baby's green poop, contact your child's pediatrician right away.
- Rashes: If your baby develops rashes along with odd-colored stools. It can be a sign of an allergy.
- Foul-smelling and frothy stools: If your baby has a green frothy stool with a foul smell, it can indicate infection. Babies do have frothy poop if there is more consumption of foremilk. However, a frothy poop can also be due to the presence of mucus in the poop.
- Sudden loss of weight: If your baby has suddenly lost weight without any reason and frequently passes green poops, consult the doctor immediately.
- Bloated stomach: If your baby has a bloated tummy and has been passing green stools for more than two days, your child's condition needs to be discussed with the doctor.
- Pain or cramps in the stomach: It is difficult to know if your baby is having stomach pain or cramps. However, if your baby is continuously cranky and irritated, and is constantly pulling his or her feet up while crying, it could be an indication of pain.
An Important Tip About Your Baby's Poop
If your baby’s poop is not fresh and has been in the diaper or nappy for a while, the oxidation process will make the poop appear green in color. Hence, you should be keen in determining whether your baby's poop is still fresh or not.
It is always said that a baby’s diaper is a good indicator of his or her health. However, one should make sure to check the freshly soiled diaper and not the diaper that has been soiled for a long time.
Green poop in babies is absolutely fine as long as the baby is gaining adequate weight and is healthy. But as mentioned earlier, there are certain signs and symptoms that one needs to watch out for. In such cases, do visit the pediatrician so that the right diagnosis is done and the baby is given the necessary treatment and medication.